Peter Bently Tour: On the Road

Sunday afternoon and I am stood in my mum’s house looking out on a dreich Lenzie afternoon. (Dreich is a marvellous Scots word devised entirely to describe Lenzie afternoons) when Beth and Chris arrive in the battle bus, aka the Scottish Book Trust tour car.

They ask my mum if I can come out to play until Friday? “Yes of course Peter can go with you,” says Mum. “But you have to make sure that he eats his fruit”. We set off for Kinloch Rannoch with a van full of books, suitcases -- and a carrier bag full of fruit.

We make a brief stop at Killiecrankie, to see the spot of the infamous Soldier’s Leap. “I could make that, it’s way less than 18ft”, scoffs Beth, before quickly adding, “but you should go first, Chris.” Both Beth and Chris hastily decline my offer to give it a go. “Sorry, the author was last seen being washed downstream in the general direction of Dundee” is not an ideal first tweet of the tour. So it’s back in the car and off to Kinloch Rannoch.

Once at the hotel we discuss the canine inspiration for my book The Great Dog Bottom Swap and I gave us a wee rendition of the folk song based on the same legend (‘The dogs they had a party, they came from near and far, / Some they came by bicycle and some by motor car...’). We also discussed how zombies could survive under water and the correct spelling of the shortened form of ‘casual’. Is it casj or cazh or cas’ or ...what? Answers on a postcard, tweet, email etc.

Ready and raring to go on Monday we battle through a blizzard to the first session with 13 pupils in Kinloch Rannoch Primary. After my rendition of Cats Ahoy! -- complete with splendidly terrifying hissing and caterwauling from the kids -- we then sit down and make the first Alfonso pirate masks of the week. The pupils create vibrant and colourful masks and have great fun wearing them. Pupils had also been making clay model dinosaurs so I ended the session with a Scottish-exclusive -- so exclusive that I only have a proof or blad copy -- reading of my new book Diggory Digger and the Dinosaurs.

We venture over the hills -- and yet more snow -- to Kirkmichael Primary, where we are greeted enthusiastically by the headteacher, Mrs Wynd. It appears that her enthusiasm never wavers nor does her laughter, which made for a warm and friendly atmosphere within this lovely little school.

I read my story Farmer Clegg’s Night Out to the pupils -- partly in my pyjamas -- and followed it by creating woolly pom-pom Mariachi Pigs with the children. A slightly trickier and more involved task than colouring the masks but they managed well, with the children who finished first kindly helping out the others. All were delighted with their pigs, Arriba! Arriba! So delighted that they want to make sheep tomorrow!

Things I learnt today: There are no pink dolphins in Loch Rannoch (thank you Orla for putting me right) -- though there are (small) sharks and there may be mermaids. And that zombies on the toilet are funny. (Thank you Harley.) And knitting machines are NOT the same as sewing machines (thank you Lily!)

Peter Bently

Peter Bently is a children's author whose book Cats Ahoy! won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize in 2011. He is currently touring schools in Perth & Kinross and Stirling.